Review - The Commitments

Ahhh, another Jukebox musical I'd been meaning to see for a while, The Commitments has been open in London since 2013, and has gained mostly favourable reviews, but if you've read much of my blog, you'll know that while I am a HUGE musical theatre fan, jukebox musicals never really appeal to me. However, while I was in London to see Di and Viv and Rose I thought I might as well make a stagey day of it and catch another show too, and with restricted view tickets for the particular show priced at just £13, I basically thought 'why not?' and just went for it.
The story, set in Ireland in the 1980s, follows the trials and tribulations of a group of young musicians (and the trumpeter from the Beatles' All You Need Is Love...because why not?) as they try to achieve stardom, at least locally, with their band The Commitments. Given the context of the story (a poverty stricken 1980s Dublin suburb, where the unemployment rate was high and spirits were low), the story felt appropriate, very grim, gritty and understated, but entertainment-wise, this gave the show a lackluster tone overall. Large chunks of the story felt very rushed, and a lot of the songs were marred by brawls constantly breaking out between characters just as the song was starting to get the crowd going. Hardly any of the characters were fleshed out very much, and most of those that were weren't very likable (with the main exception being Dennis Grindel's Jimmy Rabbitte, the band's exasperated manager). It's such a shame though, because the whole cast gave 110% and I was hugely impressed every single performance.

The cast member whose performance really stood out to me though, was Brian Gilligan as The Commitments' lead singer Decco. His character, while unlikable, was at least entertaining, with a huge personality and a couple of really brilliant comedic moments. Not to mention his soulful powerhouse voice (that sounds like an oxymoron, but if you've seen the show then you hopefuly understand what I mean) which brought down the house in numbers such as Heard it Through the Grapevine and Try a Little Tenderness. The 'Commitmentettes' who mainly provided backing vocals were also incredible, especially when given their time to shine during a solo in act 2.

The set design is also commendable. As a drama student, I love a good, complex, multifaceted set, and on that level this show did not disappoint, with the stage dressed to look like an estate, large set pieces were pulled out from the wings in order to create the appearance of the inside of a house, or a bar, or a garage. I'm don't feel qualified to talk much about the more complex aspects of the set design, so if this is making very little sense then just imaging Christine's dressing room in Phantom...but grimier...and on a much bigger scale.

Overall, for the price of the seats, I can't really complain. The show was enjoyable, but I was never wowed. There was no big showstopping moment for me. In fact, I can't really recall any moment when I felt very much emotion towards anything that happened. It just....happened. But the cast was enthusiastic, and at the end, the audience clapped and cheered and sang along, and it was a nice way to spend an evening. But for me it felt like fluff (y'know, grimy, gritty fluff. Lint from a dilapidated tumble dryer is maybe more in keeping with the show's aesthetic) without much substance.

Verdict - 2 Stars

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